Spirituality Course

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Forum #2


Topic: In Wilson’s text, she introduces the dynamic commonly found among survivors of abuse, known as Karpman’s Triangle.  Discuss how you would utilize this concept in treatment with a female client involved in an emotionally abusive romantic relationship.  She has also revealed to you that she is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, perpetrated by her uncle when she was 13.


Karpman’s Triangle




First of all, you may want to start by looking at these brief videos.  Then, try to conceptualize


A cute little video with clear graphics.

Karpman Drama Triangle


Below, please find additional information regarding Karpman’s triangle.  This conceptualization grew out of a theory called “transactional analysis.”  The model highlights the roles that people play in dysfunctional relationships.  These roles may be played “unconsciously”—without any clear awareness.  In dysfunctional families, people move in and out of roles.  Past experiences (especially childhood), may determine/influence the role we start out with in our relationship.  The following information may help you better understand the model so that you can address the GDB question.


1.      Rescuer:  Rescues the victim.  May just pretend to be good, strong, nice.  May feel needed, important and in charge when rescuing.  May feel guilty if doesn’t rescue.  May have hidden motives—a need for self-esteem or a need for someone to be dependent upon him/her.  May feel guilty and therefore “give in” to rescue others (marshmallow parent).  May feel angry if rescuing efforts are not appreciated sufficiently.

Forced Rescuers:  People in the family may be forced into the rescuer role, especially in an unhealthy family situation.  For example, the child may be forced to “rescue” his/her abuser and prevent prosecution or jail.  An adult may be forced to rescue his/her spouse from the consequences of alcohol or drugs.  A wife may rescue her husband from the consequences of incest.

Switching Roles:   Sometimes rescuers get tired of rescuing.  On the other hand, they may get angry if their rescuing efforts are not appreciated sufficiently.  May switch to Persecutor or Victim role.   


2.      Victim:  The one getting hurt.  Can feel easily overwhelmed.  Lack confidence.  Weak.  Needy.  Helpless.  

Sometimes people just “play the role” of victims.  In child abuse, children are genuine victims.  They can get tired of being victims.  They can switch to Persecutors. 


3.      Persecutor:  Blames.  Criticizes.  Abuses.  Easily angered.  Sets strict limits.  Controls.  Justifies behavior and blames the Victim.  Feeds on the reactions of others.  May feel guilt after persecuting and switch to Rescuer (e.g., the cycle of physical abuse in couples).


When addressing the GDB question, Wilson starts discussing the “Rescuer” role on Page 131.  She then describes the “Carpman Triangle,” and her own “Wilson Rectangle” described on Page 136.  Pay special attention to Wilson’s notion of “one-anothering” (pp. 135-146). 


Guides to a Successful Post


·         Begin by trying to conceptualize which role the woman in the scenario might adopt

·         Which role might the “boyfriend” adopt?

·         Justify why you have chosen these initial roles

·         In dysfunction, people move in and out of the roles.  How might these roles change over time?

·         How would you use this model to help counsel this woman?

·         Keep in mind that she may not be aware of the role she has adopted.

·         How might you help the woman to move her relationship toward what Wilson calls, “one-anothering?: (pp. 135-136)